Clean Your Email List for Better Engagement and Sender Reputation

I found this Twitter (now X) thread by Matthew McGarry from GrowLetter which perfectly explains the importance of regularly cleaning your email list to increase engagement and improve sender reputation.

Sender reputation is an important part of email deliverability, and landing in the inbox (instead of spam or promotions tab), so I thought I’d share it with you.

I’ve included his words below so you can read it for yourself.

Here’s Matthew:

Here’s the fastest way to increase your newsletter open and click rate AND get more unique opens and clicks in the long run:

Remove subscribers who are no longer engaging with your emails.

Now, why should you remove subscribers in the first place?

Let me explain:

Your sender reputation is what email providers (Gmail, Apple, Yahoo, etc) use to evaluate where to deliver your emails.

Good sender reputation = more of your emails in the primary inbox.

Bad sender reputation = more of your emails in promotions, spam, or other folders.

Your sender reputation is determined by how people engage with your emails.

This means opens, clicks, replies, etc.

Current sender rep will determine how new subscribers get your emails.

This means:

  • If your current engagement is bad, more new subscribers will have emails from you sent to their promotions or spam folders.
  • If your current engagement is good, more new subscribers will see your emails in your primary inbox.

The only way to improve sender reputation (and thereby engagement) is cleaning your list.

Here’s how:

You should be cleaning your list 1x per month. Or before each send. Or with automated rules.

Start by going into your Email Service Provider and creating 2 segments:

Segment 1 – Users without opens in X days

The day count will depend on newsletter content, frequency, and how aggressively you want to remove subscribers.

I recommend 60-90 days for most newsletters.

Here’s what it looks like in beehiiv:

Segment 2 – Users that open 100% of emails and have 0 clicks in X days

Same case here—I recommend 60-90 days.

These are likely Apple Mail Privacy Protection Users who are inactive.

Here’s what this segment looks like in beehiiv:

After creating these segments, unsubscribe them and exclude them from future sends.

Now, we need to talk about stopping users from becoming inactive in the first place:

How to Win-Back Subscribers

This starts with understanding your newsletter isn’t a fit for everyone.

You won’t win back most disengaged subscribers.

That’s why it’s important to make a great first impression with your:

  • Subscriber flow
  • Welcome sequence
  • Each new newsletter send

Spend 10x more time improving those 3 things than improving your win-back sequence and strategy.

That said, here’s how to win back subscribers:

Set up a re-engagement sequence that sends messages to your subscribers after they don’t open or click in X days.

Again, “X days” really depends on newsletter content, frequency, and how aggressively you want to remove subscribers.

For daily newsletters (5+ days per week), I recommend entering users into a re-engagement sequence 10-14 days after 0 opens or clicks.

For weekly newsletters, I recommend entering users into a re-engagement sequence 21-30 days after 0 opens or clicks.

Send 2-4 re-engagement emails.

More than that will increase spam complaints (I have 2 in my sequence).

Keep the emails short and simple.

Get to the point fast.

Include the following points:

  • Remind them who you are and how you help
  • Tell them they will be removed and why
  • Tell them how to stay on the list
  • Tell them to move your emails to their primary inbox and/or reply

Here’s a great example:

Re-engagement Email Example

Each Email Service Provider is different in terms of how these emails are sent.

You can even send them manually to segments if you want.

The point is that you send them when needed.

Hans again, if you found this useful, follow Matthew on Twitter or join his newsletter for tips to grow and monetize your newsletter.

Hans Desjarlais
Hans Desjarlais

Hans Desjarlais is a seasoned tech entrepreneur with over a decade of industry experience. Faced with low open rates in his previous lifestyle software business, he dived into the complexities of email deliverability, performed rigorous testing and learned to achieve remarkable results. Now, he specializes in helping companies fix their email deliverability, avoid the spam folder and boost their email ROI.

Articles: 49

Leave a Reply